Newshawk: WallyB
Pubdate: Sun, 06 Aug 2000
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2000 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Contact: letters@honoluluadvertiser.com
Address: P.O. Box 3110 Honolulu, HI 96802
Fax: (808) 525-8037

Author: Dan Nakaso

NEW LAW INSPIRES PRO BONO PAKALOLO

Nearly two months have passed since Gov. Ben Cayetano signed a bill that
made Hawai`i the eighth state to legalize possession of marijuana when used
for medical treatment. But nowhere in the 17 pages of regulations are there
are any allowances to distribute or sell marijuana, or even allow patients
obtain seeds or plants to grow their own.

A new Hawai'i law legalizing medical marijuana has prompted many Isle
residents to look for ways to grow or obtain the drug legally.

A mechanized pulley silently drags high-pressure sodium lights back and
forth above 23 marijuana plants, bathing them in 1,000 watts of blinding light.

A ventilation system sucks the heat out of the marijuana growing room to
avoid detection by police helicopters equipped with infrared heat sensors.
Fans gently exercise the plants and stimulate growth as a machine produces
carbon dioxide to encourage photosynthesis.

The friends who set up the $9,000 operation in a home in a quiet Honolulu
subdivision have been told repeatedly they could make big money selling
pakalolo on the street. They're not interested.

They say their marijuana goes to select friends and family who suffer from
a variety of injuries, illnesses and other problems that marijuana helps
when prescription drugs don't. Among the ailments that it is used to treat
are insomnia, back and neck injuries and menstrual cramps.

They say they give away their pakololo or sell it below market prices,
which run about $400 to $600 per ounce. They also smoke it themselves for
medicinal purposes.

The hui is part of the expanding network of underground pakololo growers
filling a demand for so-called medical marijuana, pot grown and smoked not
just for the high but to relieve pain associated with a variety of physical
maladies.

Nearly two months have passed since Gov. Ben Cayetano signed a bill that
made Hawai`i the eighth state to legalize possession of marijuana when used
for medical treatment. The law allows people to use marijuana if they have
a "debilitating medical condition" such as cancer, glaucoma or AIDS or for
a medical condition that causes pain, nausea or other problems.

The outlaw growers gave a tour of their operation to The Advertiser with
the understanding that the location and their names not be revealed.

"We realize the risk," said one of them, a 40-something state employee and
divorced father of two. "But if we can help folks live as close a normal
life as we can, that's the risk that we have to take. If we can help people
live productive lives, we feel we're helping the community. We're coming
from the heart."

Marijuana relieves nausea and stimulates appetites for people with cancer
and AIDS, advocates say. For glaucoma patients, they say, marijuana reduces
the intraocular pressure in the eye. And it eases pain, migraines and
menstrual cramps.

Patients who are registered with the state can have no more than three
mature marijuana plants, four immature plants and one ounce of usable
marijuana per mature plant.

Although medical marijuana has been legalized in Hawai`i, no one has been
certified to get it.

State narcotics enforcement officials have been writing procedures to allow
doctors to register patients. The proposals will go to the attorney
general's office, public hearings and the governor before they're adopted,
perhaps by the end of the year.

But nowhere in the 17 pages of regulations are there are any allowances to
distribute or sell marijuana, or even allow patients obtain seeds or plants
to grow their own.

"This medical marijuana act doesn't address how you obtain it," said Keith
Kamita, chief of the state's narcotics enforcement division. "That's one of
the flaws in the law."

Kamita knows that the absence of distribution or cultivation rules will
hardly discourage growers.

"There are going to be more," he said. "We know that."

His office received about 50 calls per day soon after the medical marijuana
bill passed, mostly from people wanting to know how to register.

About 20 percent of the calls came from people who want to grow, sell or
distribute marijuana to groups of patients. The law allows only registered
caregivers to possess marijuana for their patients.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington,
D.C., gets about 30 e-mails per week from people in Hawai`i wanting to know
how they can legally obtain marijuana.

Like the other states and the District of Columbia, which also allows
medical marijuana, Hawai`i's law conflicts with federal law, which outlaws
marijuana.

"People in Hawai`i are logically confused," said Allen St. Pierre, the
organization's executive director. "There's no doubt that demand is high
for it. So if there's a demand for it, in a logical system then there would
be a system for distribution. This bizarre parallel universe cannot
continue without amending federal legislation."

St. Pierre said that Hawai`i probably will have to follow the same pattern
as other states in which somebody who forms a growers' club or buyers' club
gets arrested, and the issues are aired in court. At that point, police and
prosecutors generally will make some sort of informal concession that will
allow the clubs to continue operating, St. Pierre said.

"I wouldn't be a soothsayer in saying that it's likely that somebody will
play the role of legal martyr," he said. "It doesn't have to happen. But
odds are it will. Then the precedent is that local accommodations will soon
be arrived at."

The U.S. Justice Department shut down six buyers' clubs in California. One
of them, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, filed suit. U.S.
District Judge Charles Breyer ruled last month that the Oakland Cannabis
Buyers' Cooperative can legally distribute marijuana to patients.

Breyer further ruled that the government failed to prove why seriously ill
patients should not have legal access to the substance.

The court proceedings in California sounded familiar to Joanna McKee,
co-founder and director of the Green Cross Patient Co-op in Seattle.

McKee, who uses marijuana for migraines and to ease the pain from three
spinal cord injuries suffered in a series of car accidents, co-founded
Green Cross in 1992. In 1995, she was growing 162 plants in her bedroom
when authorities raided the house and arrested her. The search warrant they
used eventually was thrown out of court. McKee won on appeal.

Today, she continues to operate the Green Cross Patient Co-op, but merely
acts as a conduit between growers and 1,000 patients, who keep their
medical permission slips on file with her.

Washington's law also has no provision for growing, selling or distributing
medical marijuana. But McKee said she no longer has problems with police,
who now come by only to ensure she has records for patients.

"We are illegal," McKee said. "But when they busted us, the press was so
bad for them and good for us."

Tom Mountain, a Hawai`i medical marijuana advocate, spends his days
thinking of ways to give patients low-cost marijuana and keep himself out
of legal trouble.

He even has a name picked out for his group, the Honolulu Medical Marijuana
Patients' Co-op.

Instead of running into trouble by selling marijuana, Mountain said he
might give it away and accept whatever donations patients can make.

Or he might help form a hui in which he helps patients tend to their
marijuana plants. Instead of buying the marijuana, the patients would pay
only rent, Mountain said, reducing the cost to about half the current
street price.

"At this point, the intent of the law is clear, but it's not helping
anybody," Mountain said. "The law is flawed, and everybody admits it. So if
we don't get the approval from the state, we're going to do it anyway."
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